(INDIANAPOLIS, IND) – As digital health technology continues to advance and the healthcare industry evolves, many Americans want the ability to utilize more digital methods when it comes to managing their health, according to a study recently released by Elevance Health – formerly Anthem, Inc. For people who have used virtual primary care, the vast majority of them (94%) are satisfied with their experience, and nearly four in five (79%) say it has allowed them to take charge of their health. Survey respondents also indicated that convenience and accessibility are among the top traits that attract them to digital methods like virtual primary care.
Elevance Health, a leading health company dedicated to improving lives and communities, commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct an online study of over 5,000 US adults age 18+ around virtual primary care. Specifically, the study aimed to gain insights into consumer interest in virtual primary care as a resource to improve their health and wellbeing.
“Consumers are using digital technologies at an accelerating pace, and consistent with this, we’re seeing at Elevance Health use of telehealth that is nearly 20 times greater than pre-pandemic levels,” said Rajeev Ronanki, President of Digital Platforms at Elevance Health. “Virtual primary care gives individuals the opportunity to work with innovative services that make healthcare more convenient, accessible, and fit into their increasingly busy schedules. The study’s findings reiterate the desires of consumers to use digital technology – along with using traditional in-person care options – to take control of their health.”
Familiarity & Experience with Virtual Primary Care
While telehealth and online healthcare services are rising in popularity, Elevance Health found that Americans’ familiarity with virtual primary care is divided - with around half (48%) being familiar with the term. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) like virtual primary care/find it appealing. Convenience (35%) and accessibility (31%) are among the top traits which Americans like or find appealing about virtual primary care. The overall ease of use (30%) is also appealing.
Even though a majority like/find virtual primary care appealing, people still have questions. Around three in ten Americans who have not used virtual primary care as a source of primary care (31%) believe that doctors need to see their problem in person to know what is wrong. Around a fifth say they do not know if it is covered by their insurance, so they feel it may cost more (21%). Fortunately, some health plans – like those affiliated with Elevance Health – include virtual primary care as a plan benefit.
Virtual primary care is part of Elevance Health and its affiliate health plans’ ongoing efforts to elevate whole health and advance health beyond healthcare – giving people more ways to connect with their care providers, and integrating digital, virtual, and in-person care. The offering can help address many conditions and help individuals manage their chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. Virtual primary care also provides people access to urgent care services for minor health issues, including allergies, cold, skin rashes, and more.
“As we develop the future of consumer-centered healthcare, it is important that we create a digital care network that gives individuals access to a spectrum of connected services, which includes virtual primary care as well as in-office, in-home, and digital services,” Ronanki added.
Virtual Primary Care and Individuals with Chronic Conditions
While a majority of Americans (82%) feel their health is excellent or good, more than three in five Americans (63%), are currently living with or managing a chronic health condition(s). Nearly two-thirds (62%) of those living with a chronic condition believe virtual primary care may help them take charge of their health.
Americans see the benefits of virtual primary care - no matter if they are or are not living with or managing a chronic health condition. Many feel it can be a great way to increase access to healthcare for people who may otherwise be unable to visit a provider in-person (83%). However, the motivations to use it may differ – with those living with/managing chronic conditions being intrigued by the array of services easily available to them. Those without a chronic health condition who have a primary care physician are more likely than their counterparts to wish their primary healthcare provider used more digital forms of communication (47% vs. 39%)
Americans with a chronic health condition are more likely than those without a chronic health condition to be familiar with virtual primary care (52% vs. 42%). This group is also more likely to have ever used virtual primary care (36% vs. 25%) – specifically for each of the following (chronic health condition vs. without chronic condition):
- Prescriptions (19% vs. 12%)
- General wellness/treatment plans (10% vs. 7%)
- Addressing a non-urgent medical problem (8% vs. 5%)
- Quickly addressing a new acute or urgent medical problem (7% vs. 5%)
- Getting a referral to a specialist (6% vs. 4%)
- Addressing urgent issues or flare-ups associated with chronic conditions (6% vs. 3%)
- Managing chronic conditions (5% vs. 2%)
Current Health & Practices
As digital communications dominate everyday interactions and business transactions, there is an opportunity for providers to increase adoption of technology to address a gap with consumer use of digital communications in healthcare. Around two in five (41%) Americans who have a primary healthcare provider wish digital forms of communication, such as text messages or emails, were used more.
With virtual primary care available with many of Elevance Health’s affiliated health plans, those members seeking digital communication with a care provider have access to a virtual care team through our medical text-chat service. The virtual primary care team can provide members with preventive care, condition management, and urgent care concerns - helping members improve their health and wellbeing – all at no or low cost. Follow-up questions can be managed for no additional charge through asynchronous chat, giving the member freedom to start, pause, and resume conversational messaging on their own terms.
Despite mixed familiarity surrounding virtual primary care, Americans appear eager to embark on this new path in healthcare:
- More than half who have a primary care physician (52%) say they would use virtual primary care in addition to the care they receive from their current primary healthcare provider within the next year, while most are likely to do so within the next two to five years (59%) and beyond the next five years (62%).
- Most Americans who have used virtual primary care (84%) say it has been very useful during the pandemic and plan to continue using it as pandemic conditions improve.
- Many people are interested in using virtual primary care for services such as prescription refills (76%), referrals to specialists (72%), and addressing both non-urgent (67%) and/or urgent issues (58%).
- Overall, Americans believe the healthcare system is changing for the better with the inclusion of virtual primary care (71%).
- Similarly, a majority of Americans (83%) believe it is a great way to increase access to healthcare for people who may otherwise be unable to visit a provider in person.
To learn more about the virtual primary care study, visit www.elevancehealth.com/research/physical-health/what-consumers-want-from-virtual-primary-care-findings.
The research was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of Elevance Health among 5,009 adults age 18+. The survey was conducted March 3-21, 2022.
Data are weighted where necessary by age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, marital status, household size, household income, language proficiency for Hispanics, and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 1.7 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. This credible interval will be wider among subsets of the surveyed population of interest.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to other multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including, but not limited to coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.
About Elevance Health
Elevance Health is a lifetime, trusted health partner fueled by its purpose to improve the health of humanity. The company supports consumers, families, and communities across the entire care journey – connecting them to the care, support, and resources they need to lead healthier lives. Elevance Health’s companies serve more than 119 million people through a diverse portfolio of industry-leading medical, digital, pharmacy, behavioral, clinical, and complex care solutions. For more information, please visit www.elevancehealth.com or follow us @ElevanceHealth on Twitter and Elevance Health on LinkedIn.